‘We’re going to get sued’
PC leader talks about fallout from Bill 75
Q: (The teachers dispute) has been dominating the news the last number of weeks. Where do you see things going from here now that the legislation (Bill 75) has been passed?
A: We’re going to get sued. Taxpayers are on the hook for millions of dollars in legal costs because the bill not constitutional, that’s inevitable. It’s one of the reasons
I opposed it; I think it’s reckless financially to expose the taxpayers of
Nova Scotia to millions of dollars in costs. I for one would have rather seen that money just go into classrooms in the first place. This whole thing would have been avoided. Mr. McNeil, his style, which is to humiliate teachers, to divide people, has actually cost us two school days this year. He provoked a one-day strike, the first in our history, and he locked the students out in December. The other thing is, the teachers, they don’t trust Premier McNeil anymore, they don’t trust his government and that means all hope of real classroom improvements is gone for the remainder of his government, and that’s a shame.
: What does this mean now for the other collective agreements that are up for negotiation?
A: We’ll see. The fact is that there is no settled agreement by negotiation, he has one now that he forced through last week. There will be a budget this spring, they’ll claim it’s balanced, that claim will be false because it’s based on collective agreements that have yet to be concluded through negotiation, it’s based on assumptions that I don’t think will hold up and it means we have a very demoralized and unmotivated workforce of teachers and other government workers, and I think that’s a shame because we need everybody to work together is we’re ever going to turn this place around.
Q : What are some of your other priorities heading into a spring sitting of the legislature?
A: No. 1 is growth — jobs, the economy. The Conference Board of Canada just today put out a report saying we’re going to be the last in the country this year and next year in jobs and I think this is the big difference between Stephen McNeil and Jamie Baillie: we look at the same problem we have a stalled economy, and McNeil’s answer to that is to cut things. Well, I didn’t run to cut things. He cuts health care, he cut mental health, he cut nursing home meals to $5 a day for our seniors. I have no interest in that. I want to grow things. We have to focus on growth, on getting the economy going and clearing off red tape and getting our taxes down to the national average so we can compete and win. We will have a full set of long-term plans to bring to the house when it reconvenes in the spring.
Q : When do you expect an election to be called?
A: Sometime this year. We will be ready — we’re pretty much ready now. The way that the McNeil government handled the teachers was pretty bad, a lot of hard feelings, even how rudely they treated people who came to the legislature wanting to testify. I think a lot of Nova Scotians noticed that and they’re not happy with it. Whether that means the election is delayed or not, we’ll see.
Q : If your party doesn’t make any major advances in the next election, what do you foresee your own future being?
A: We’re going to win the next election, I absolutely believe it, from the response I’m getting from people, even today in Sydney … .The only thing I am focused on is winning the election and showing Nova Scotians a pro-growth plan.
Q : There’s been a lot of frustration locally in the rolling out of assistance for people who were affected by the Thanksgiving flood, what would your approach be to that?
A: To make sure that every family gets the help they need and I’m very frustrated that the McNeil government put out flowery press releases and then walked away from some families. To me, governing means seeing your commitments through to the end and that has not happened, and I think it’s very unfair.